Hungry for More. 7 Telltale Signs Your Cat Wants Food


Cats are known for being quiet animals, so how can you tell when your feline friend is hungry and wants to be fed? While cats may not be as vocal around mealtimes as dogs, there are still clear signs that indicate your cat is ready to eat. Recognizing when your cat is hungry and providing food at regular intervals is key to keeping your cat happy and healthy. This guide will go over the telltale behaviors cats exhibit when they want their next tasty meal.

Meowing insistently

One of the most obvious signs that a cat is hungry is when they start meowing loudly and frequently. As mammals, cats communicate through vocalizations like meowing. When a cat is hungry, they will often meow persistently to let their owner know it’s time to eat. The meows may get louder and more frequent the longer a cat has to wait to be fed. According to one source, “When your cats meow when they are hungry, it’s likely their way of letting you know that they want food.” [1] So if your cat is meowing more than usual, especially around regular meal times, chances are good they are telling you they want their food.

Rubbing against owners

Cats will often rub up against their owners when they want food. This rubbing behavior is a way for the cat to get the owner’s attention and show affection, with the hopes of being fed. When cats rub against people, they are depositing pheromones which mark you as “theirs.” This sends the signal that you belong to them and should provide food (Insider, 2022). So when your cat starts rubbing against your legs, furniture, or ankles, it could be their way of letting you know it’s time to eat.

Cats tend to increase rubbing and nudging behaviors right around typical meal times. If you feed them at 7am and 5pm daily, they’ll start nudging and rubbing about 10-15 minutes beforehand as a way to remind you. This strategic timing of affection helps ensure their human doesn’t forget to fill up that food bowl. The more insistently they rub and circle, often while meowing or purring, the more likely it is a sign of hunger.

Additionally, cats may rub against areas like the pantry or kitchen cabinets where their food is stored as a more direct signal. This targeted rubbing aims to draw the owner’s attention straight to the food source. So next time your cat starts vigorously rubbing up against you, try feeding them a meal and see if the behavior stops. Chances are your feline friend was just sending you a friendly hunger reminder.

Staring intently

One clear sign that a cat is hungry is when they stare fixedly at their owners or at their food bowls. Cats have excellent vision and can focus intently on objects of interest. According to one source, “If your cat is hungry, they may stare at you or at where you store their food with an unwavering gaze.”[1] This intense staring is their way of communicating their desire to be fed. When cats are hungry, they become hyper-focused on their goal of getting food, often staring for prolonged periods at their owners as they move around the house. Their eyes remain fixed and pupils dilated. Some cats may also accompany this staring with urgent meows or other vocalizations. So if your cat is following you with their eyes and staring intently, it’s a good bet that they’re probably ready to eat.

[1] “Cat Staring: Decoding Your Cat’s Behavior.” Pumpkin, 16 Nov. 2022, Accessed 10 Jan. 2023.


One of the most common signs that a cat is hungry is increased restlessness and activity levels (Dutch, 2022). You may notice your cat pacing around the house, walking back and forth near where their food is kept, or following you from room to room. A hungry cat wants to make sure you don’t forget it’s mealtime. According to experts, this restless behavior is driven by the cat’s innate hunting instincts. When hungry, cats become more active as they enter “hunting mode” looking for food (Quora, 2023).

Increased meowing or yowling often accompanies this restless behavior. Your cat may meow insistently at you or let out pitiful-sounding cries to get your attention. It’s their way of communicating their hunger and trying to spur you into action. Pay attention if your normally lazy cat suddenly becomes uncharacteristically active and vocal around mealtimes. Chances are, they’re letting you know it’s time to feed them.


One of the clearest signs your cat is hungry is when they start begging for food. This often involves plaintive meowing or yowling, especially around mealtimes or when you are preparing food. Your cat may rub against you, paw at you, or stare intently to get your attention. As this source explains, cats often beg when they want something – so vocalizations and pawing are your cat’s way of asking for a meal.

Cats may beg persistently, meowing loudly or incessantly until you feed them. They know mealtime routines and will start begging when they expect to be fed. Some cats even try to lead owners to their food bowl when hungry. It’s important not to confuse begging with a medical issue, but if your cat seems hungry outside of their normal mealtimes, begging is a clear hunger cue.

Chewing and nibbling

One of the key signs that a cat is hungry is increased chewing or nibbling behavior, even on objects that aren’t food. Cats have a natural instinct to chew when hungry. In the wild, this helps them tear meat from bones or other food sources. Domestic cats will often transfer this instinct to household items.

When a cat is very hungry, they may start chewing or nibbling on random household items like cardboard, plastic, fabrics, wires, and more. This is because their predatory instincts take over when hungry and they feel compelled to “hunt down” something they can sink their teeth into, even if it’s not edible. According to veterinarians, this type of destructive chewing is fairly common in cats and often intensifies when a cat’s normal feeding schedule gets thrown off or they are not provided enough food overall (source).

Excessive chewing or nibbling may also be a sign your cat has a compulsive disorder or other medical issue. But in many cases, it’s simply a sign your cat’s hungry and looking for something to “hunt.” Pay attention to when the chewing occurs in relation to mealtimes. If the behavior ramps up leading up to feeding time, that’s a clear sign your cat may be telling you they need more food.

Mealtime routines

Having set mealtimes is important for cats. Cats like routines and feel most comfortable when their schedule is predictable and consistent. Feeding your cat at the same times each day helps them feel secure and provides a sense of normalcy.

Veterinarians typically recommend feeding adult cats twice a day, once in the morning and once at night 1. Sticking to a routine of morning and evening feedings about 12 hours apart gives cats a constant source of energy and prevents overeating. It also makes it easier for owners to monitor how much their cat is eating.

When mealtimes are predictable, cats are less likely to beg for food in between meals. A consistent schedule teaches them when to expect meals. Senior cats especially benefit from regular feeding times tailored to their slower metabolisms and health needs.

In addition to meal frequency, serving sizes and diet should also remain consistent. Sudden changes can upset a cat’s stomach. Following a routine caters to a cat’s natural preference for regularity and order.

Knowing your cat’s usual feeding schedule makes it easier to notice if anything is amiss. Familiar times, amounts, and food types are best. Sticking to a steady routine is healthy and stress-reducing for cats.

Know your cat

Every cat has their own unique way of communicating when they’re hungry or want to be fed. Some cats may meow loudly or incessantly when it’s time to eat, while others will rub against their owners’ legs or stare expectantly. Other signs like restlessness, begging, and chewing or nibbling can also indicate hunger, but these cues can vary between cats.

It’s important to pay attention and get to know your individual cat’s routines and mannerisms. For example, some cats are very schedule-oriented and will start meowing insistently around their usual mealtimes. Other cats may show more subtle signs like moving to areas where their food is kept. Understanding your cat’s unique “language” will help you determine if they’re hungry or not.

Factors like age, health status, and personality can also impact how your cat communicates hunger. Kittens and younger cats tend to be more ravenous and insistent about eating, while senior cats may show more muted signs. Medical issues like dental disease or gastrointestinal problems can also change eating behaviors. Getting to know your feline companion takes time, but it helps ensure you can meet their needs.


In summary, there are several key signs that indicate when a cat is feeling hungry, beyond their usual mealtimes. Persistent meowing or yowling is a common indicator that a cat is asking for food. They may also beg insistently by rubbing against their owner’s legs or staring intently. Restlessness, chewing behaviors, and changes in routine mealtime habits can also signal hunger. It’s important to get to know your individual cat’s typical appetite and normal behavior when satisfied, versus when they are feeling truly hungry and need more nutrition. If a cat is displaying multiple signs of hunger outside of their regular feeding times, it likely indicates their current diet is not meeting their dietary needs.

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